Romer: Transportation funding needs to be a priority (column) | VailDaily.com

Romer: Transportation funding needs to be a priority (column)

Local transit service and statewide transportation funding are vital to Eagle County’s business community.

Enhanced public transit service helps achieve other strategic goals, including protecting the environment, conserving energy and providing for our residents’ health, safety and security. Public transit is vital to connect our workforce from population centers to work centers throughout the valley in a quick and efficient manner.

Public transit complements and supplements Interstate 70 and highways, local streets and roads. It’s in our vital interest to ensure that the overall system remains multimodal, balanced and interconnected.

Severe congestion in the Interstate 70 corridor to and from Denver infuriates travelers, harms local communities and small businesses, impacts our tourism economy, creates safety risks, wastes fuel and hampers intrastate and interstate commerce.

With this in mind, the Vail Valley Partnership has joined chamber and economic development organizations around the state to lobby for increased state funding and has sent the following to our state representatives:

As chamber and economic development leaders in Colorado, we are in the business of making our local communities and economies thrive. We understand that thriving, sustainable communities and economies are built on a number of factors. Strong schools, a healthy environment and a transportation system that effectively, efficiently and safely moves people and goods are these critical factors.

Thanks to Colorado’s robust economy, economic reports indicate that, for the second consecutive year, over $1 billion in new revenue will be available for base budgeting during the 2019 legislative session. These are not “one-time” funds but, rather, dollars that will carry over year after year and further build as the economy grows.

There are many important funding priorities. To support a sustained and thriving Colorado economy, it is imperative that funding Colorado’s transportation infrastructure be among the top funding priorities this year. With the funds available, investment in transportation doesn’t need to come at the expense of other priorities.

Additionally, finding new, long-term and dedicated funding sources — sources that are politically and financially viable — is the other half of the funding equation for transportation. As conversations unfold about accelerating future transportation modes, it’s imperative that we look to the future and modernize our funding approaches by creating equitable and mixed methodologies to adequately address the enormity of our transportation funding shortfall.

Further, to deliver and accelerate large-scale and regionally significant transportation projects across the state, leveraging funds through any and all available finance tools is smart and prudent. As demonstrated by their support of local bond questions, voters appreciate the value of leveraging identified funds to maximize the ability to deliver projects cost-effectively and expeditiously.

Any proposal for transportation funding and finance needs to be specific about what transportation projects will be built. Voters expressed an unwillingness during the last election to go big to fund generic transportation needs but they have, time and again, shown they are willing to fund specific projects that have a direct benefit to them.

Failure to address the transportation challenge before us is costly. The cost of projects will continue to rise, travel times will increase, possibly making tourist and recreation destinations will become less attractive. Further, the ability to engage in commerce will become more challenging and economic opportunities will be lost as businesses choose other states that invest in their transportation infrastructure.

Ultimately, a diminished economy due to a lack of investment in infrastructure will erode economic gains that fund our schools and the other budget priorities we all care about.

To assure a sustained and thriving Colorado economy, we look forward to working with you to find a meaningful, long-term solution to our transportation challenge.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.